Serena Williams made an impressive comeback to the Australian Open on Jan. 14, when she won the first round of the competition. The athletic powerhouse defeated Tatjana Maria 6-2 after a 49 minute match. The last time Williams played in the Australian Open was in Jan. 2017, while in the early stages of her pregnancy.
Williams did not compete in the open in 2018, stating that after her pregnancy, she was not as prepared for the competition as she wanted to be.
Williams is a world-renowned and rarely defeated tennis player, but her 2017 pregnancy almost got the best of her. She told Time that while her pregnancy was easy, her delivery was the hard part. After giving birth, Williams suffered from a pulmonary embolism and hematoma, both of which necessitated multiple surgeries. Williams spent the following six weeks largely in bed – a rest period unheard of for athletes of her stature.
A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the main artery of the lung, and hematoma is a collection of blood outside of a blood vessel. According to healthtalk.com, pulmonary embolisms are one of the biggest killers among pregnant women.
Williams spent much of 2018 getting her game back to champion status, with consistent training and preparation. This focus on her sport often meant sacrificing time with her daughter, Olympia Ohanian Jr. She has previously stated that balancing time with her daughter and her work is difficult, but she knows it is a balance she has to keep.
“I still have to learn a balance of being there for her, and being there for me,” she told Time. “I’m working on it. I never understood women before, when they put themselves in second or third place. And it’s so easy to do. It’s so easy to do.”
When asked why she is still so disciplined in her field, she told Time, “I’m not done yet, simple. My story doesn’t end here.”
No other athlete of William’s caliber has been able to maintain a pace such as hers, much less make such a full recovery from a near-lethal pregnancy. Since her pregnancy, Williams has become a symbol of strength and recovery for fellow mothers. She speaks highly of fellow mothers and recognizes them for the hard work they do to care for their children.
“I dedicated that to all the moms out there who’ve been through a lot,” she told Time when asked about her Wimbledon loss. “Some days, I cry. I’m really sad. I’ve had meltdowns. It’s been a really tough 11 months. If I can do it, you guys can do it too.”
Not only did Williams face difficulties following her pregnancy, but she has long dealt with hateful comments about her from the public. While it is common for public figures to receive some negative comments, Williams believes that the hate she receives is unlike what her fellow athletes experience for one specific reason.
“I’m a black woman,” she said. “Women in general are not treated the same as men who’ve had the same amount of success. And then, being a black woman, doing something historically that’s never been done, it’s easy to feel like, ‘We’ve always picked on people of this color. So I’m O.K. to continue to do it.’”
Despite all of her setbacks, Williams continues to be one of the most respected athletes in the world. She has defied expectations over and over again – from continuing to compete at her age, to bouncing back after her dangerous pregnancy, to rising to the top of the tennis world. Serena Williams is a household name and a role model, and she has no intentions of stopping now.
Sources: healthtalk.org, medicine.net, USA Today, Vanity Fair